Over the summer I discovered a new app that completely changed my constant hunt for babysitting jobs and how I interact with my neighborhood, called Nextdoor. Although this app was created in 2010, me and my neighborhood in Northfield, IL are relatively new to it.
The Nextdoor team explains themselves like this: “We created this company because we believe that the neighborhood is one of the more important communities in a person’s life. We hope that neighbors everywhere will use the Nextdoor platform to build stronger and safer neighborhoods around the world.”
As you can see from their mission statement, Nextdoor has one of the main components of social media at its core—community—but with a different spin on it. While most social media sites are usually focused on virtual sense of the word community, Nextdoor allows participants to foster their hometown communities in real life.
The app achieves this in a number of ways. First, they require an honest representation of their members. Members are must use their real name, address and phone number so their place in the community can be verified. This allows for the virtual communities to stay as tight knit as the one in reality. Second, the app focuses providing features that will be most helpful for the community. On their site, the Nextdoor team recommends answering neighbors’ questions, sharing information on local crimes or recommending business and services, selling items, and discussing community issues. By keeping these recommendations in mind, the app’s role is clear and offers a setting for group collaboration.
Nextdoor also offers public and private features. After a member sends out their message, another user can decide to comment back publicly, or start a private message change. This ensures that group conversations, like ones about sharing information or answering questions can be kept public, while figuring out the details of selling a product to a member can be kept private.
Lately, the app has received praise for their groundbreaking “localized social network”, but also been scrutinized for the problems it has ensued. On the one hand, over 100,000 neighborhoods have taken to using Nextdoor.
Users of the app appreciate the ability it gives them to reach a multitude of their neighbors on one platform. There’s no friending or following required, members solely belong to the community they live in. On the other hand, users have seen the app being used to racially profile, mainly when local crime was being talked about. But Nextdoor was quick to listen to complaints, and added features that allow for flagging of any posts that appear to have racial profiling.
For me, this app centralized the process of getting my name out there to find babysitting jobs. Whenever I was coming home from school for a break and wanted some work, I used to have to send an email out to a mother I had previously worked for and hope she would pass my name along. I relied on word of mouth and messages passing through the grapevine to get me work, but Nextdoor has changed that to help me get my name out there and give me more jobs.